Wednesday, November 18, 2015

2015 How to Divide an Intersectional Peony

The topic everyone has been dying to find out about... How to Divide an Intersectional Peony. Some have claimed that it's impossible, that the roots are so different than an herbaceous peony, that if you wait too long its too late. The rumors about dividing this plant have swirled, making dividing these beauties at once a mystery and almost no-no among home gardeners. However these plants are just as easy to divide as herbaceous peonies and perhaps adapt a bit easier to it. And who wouldn't want more of these long lived, easy to grow, and floriferous peonies in their garden?

Intersectional Peony to Be Divided

The first step in dividing your intersectional peony is to remove the ground covering or mulch from the soil surrounding the crown of the plant. You'll want to dig 8-12 inches away from the crown, depending on the size of your plant. I never measure this distance. I mostly eyeball it and use my gut feeling. You don't have to dig up all of the peony's roots. You just need to dig up most of them.

Intersectional Peony with Mulch Removed

After the mulch has been removed, start digging around the plant. I usually just start by making cuts into the soil with the shovel in a circle about 8-12 inches out from the plant. Don't worry if you hear a few roots being cut through. This is just part of the dividing process. However if it feels like you are cutting through lots of roots and the cuts are hard to make, you may be digging too close to the crown. Try making your cuts a little further out.

Begin to Dig Intersectional Peony

After I've made a few shovel cuts into the soil around the plant, I'll go around the plant again and do small test lifts of the rootball to see if the plant is starting to loosen out of the soil. By making these small cuts and doing test lifts, I can see how much more digging I need to do, or if the plant has become loose enough to begin to lift. You can also get an idea as to whether you should be digging closer or farther away from the peony crown.

Test Lift the Intersectional Peony

Once the peony is loose enough to begin lifting, I'll begin gently lifting it out of the soil by hand. If there is one side that lifts higher than the others, I will try to lift that side out first. If you find that the peony is still too buried to begin lifting, you may have to go back dig around it a little more, making few more cuts with your shovel.

Lift Out One Side of the Intersectional Peony

Once you have one side of the peony out of the dirt, you should be able to continue lifting it on that side and gently wiggle the rest of the roots out on the other sides. One or two (or several) of the roots may snap off, and that's okay, as long as you are able to get the majority of them intact. You have most certainly already cut through several of the roots when you were digging the peony anyway. Snapping and cutting off some roots is just part of the process when dividing a peony. So don't worry about those roots, your peony will live - as long as you didn't snap them all off! (Even then it may still survive, it would just take much much longer to reestablish itself and bloom again.)

Gently Shake the Intersectional Peony Until You Can Pull It Out

The next step is to select a place to divide the intersectional peony root. Often there will be a gap or space between some of the small clusters of pink buds. A space like this somewhere near the center would be a good place to start. I like to find a place like this and stick my dividing knife there. Also don't fuss too much about finding the "perfect spot" to divide the peony. Even if you make a mistake and cut a small piece off, that small piece will likely grow anyway, providing there's a small piece of the crown (hopefully containing a pink bud) with a small piece of root attached. Then you'll just have an extra "baby" division. This small division may take longer to grow to full blooming size, but it will be one more intersectional peony plant than you had before!

Find a Good Spot to Divide the Intersectional Peony

Often the intersectional peony roots are too hard to split by hand. I think this attribute is what may have caused the rumors that these peonies are hard to divide. However intersectional peonies are no more hard to divide than herbaceous peonies. They may require an extra tool (like a rubber mallet), but that tool may actually make the job a little bit easier. Use your rubber mallet to tap the dividing knife into the peony root in the place where you've decided to make your first cut.

Use a Rubber Mallet to Divide the Intersectional Peony

I usually do not try to put my dividing knife all the way through the peony's crown. Usually the peony's storage roots are intertwined and growing all around and underneath the peony's crown. Once the dividing knife is halfway or 3/4 of the way through, I will try to wiggle and pull the pieces apart to prevent further damage to the storage roots. If you find that you are unable to pull apart the pieces, then you may need to cut a little further or in a slightly different spot in order to separate the two divisions.

Intersectional Peony First Division Made

After you've made your first division, then you can examine the remaining pieces to see if you can find any other gap or spaces between buds that seem like a suitable place to divide the root even further. Repeat the steps above to cut and carefully pull apart any additional divisions you choose to make.

Find Another Spot to Divide the Intersectional Peony

You can divide your peony into as many pieces as you like. Most professional growers recommend leaving at least 3-4 eyes (the eyes are the pink buds) on each division. Also some growers will sell extra large divisions with at least 7-8 eyes on them. These larger divisions will establish themselves more quickly and are more likely to produce a bloom in their first growing season.
Intersectional Peony Second Division Made

Once you have separated your peony root into as many pieces as you'd like, you're done! Congratulations, you have now successfully divided your intersectional peony! The next thing to do is to figure out How to Plant an Intersectional Peony. May your garden grow and multiply. Good luck! :-)

Intersectional Peony Three Division

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